DuPage sheriff looks to replace aging dash cameras

The DuPage County sheriff's department wants to replace aging video cameras in its squad cars and develop the infrastructure needed to eventually equip its deputies with body cameras.

Officials this month applied for a federal grant to help pay for a $150,000 proposal to buy 100 body cameras, including one for each of the department's 78 patrol deputies. But even if the grant is awarded, new body cameras wouldn't work with the department's existing video evidence system.

"As things stand right now, we do not have the infrastructure to support body cameras," Chief James Kruse said.

So Kruse on Tuesday outlined a roughly $600,000 plan to replace dash cameras in 92 sheriff's vehicles. If approved, the system would include new equipment to store video footage and would integrate seamlessly with body cameras.

"I think we all agree just how important having the video evidence is," Kruse told members of the DuPage County Board's judicial and public safety committee. "It really is a great protection for the public and for the deputy."

He said body cameras also would reduce liability for the county.

Kruse said the video cameras in the department's squad cars are at least 16 years old and deputies must travel to the station in Wheaton to submit their video files.

The proposed dash cameras take high-definition videos with panoramic views of what happens in front of the squad car. Deputies also would be able to upload their videos from four remote locations around the county.

"The system is light years ahead of what we have," Kruse said. "The capabilities are enormous."

As part of the proposal, the department would get the dash cameras and all the related equipment immediately. It then would pay the roughly $600,000 price tag over five years with money the department receives from drug asset forfeitures.

Kruse said the annual payments will be roughly $120,000. The sheriff's Drug Traffic Prevention fund has close to $400,000 and gets more federal money on a yearly basis.

County board members are being asked to sign off on the idea because the county would make payments if there's ever a time when the sheriff's office doesn't have enough money.

Board member Paul Fichtner said he likes the current proposal because it doesn't use money from the county's general fund. More than a year ago, the board didn't want to set aside roughly $1.1 million in its budget to replace the dash cameras and buy body cameras for every deputy.

Fichtner said the issue was never about whether the cameras were a good idea.

"It was just how to pay for it," Fichtner said. "I'm glad that we've discovered a funding mechanism to do this."

Once the equipment is paid off, Kruse said the only ongoing cost is a roughly $20,000-per-year licensing fee. He said the cameras are expected to last a decade.

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